We cannot overstate the accommodation crisis the Traveller Community is struggling with or the negative impact it is having on people’s lives or how damaging it is to both their physical and mental health. The Traveller Community is crying out for help from Minceirs Whiden and Traveller organization local and national through the country, the family names and locations are different, but the issues are the same. Traveller families existing in either in substandard or overcrowded conditions, under threat of eviction, who are unable to access private rental accommodation, families falling foul of the law because they have returned to the road, illegally camped on roadsides because they have no other option.
The Irish Traveller Community has been dealing with accommodation for crisis decades, but the current accommodation crisis Ireland is experiencing has exasperated this situation for our Community. Currently, the Irish Travellers currently represent 11% of the homeless people in Ireland when we take into account that the Traveller Community makes up less than 1% of the population of fewer than 40,000 people this is a staggering over-representation, yet this likely underrepresents the true figure.
Our People are in despair they have no one to turn to who can provide solutions to their accommodation needs, it is soul-destroying to us representatives of Traveller organizations and Traveller activists that significant portions of Traveller accommodation budgets are underspent when our community is in such dire need.
There is no question that the despair that the Traveller Community are feeling because of their accommodation needs is playing a significant part in epidemic of suicide that has taken hold within the Traveller Community over the past decade, suicide which now accounts for 10% of deaths of Our Community, 7% higher than in wider Irish society.
It is well established that poor living conditions, homelessness, and threats of eviction are contributory factors to mental health issues and suicide.
Suicide is not the not only lives that the Traveller accommodation crisis has claimed over the decades, there’s the early deaths due to chronic ill health from living in damp and unhealthy environments, the lives lost through accidents and injuries from living in dangerous environments they had no other choice but to be in, the numerous Travellers who lost their lives through Trailers fires, their homes the most recently the Carraighmines tragedy that claimed 10 lives in one night.
These lost lives are the legacy of racism and discrimination that our community must deal with simply because of their Traveller Identity. And we understand the devastating impacts these unnecessary deaths have on families the legacy issue they leave behind, we see first-hand the broken parents, the devastated spouse, the orphaned children and babies whose lives have been altered forever. We see and feel this pain first-hand because these lost lives are not statists to us, they are our families, our friends our community.
The sad truth that racism and discrimination are at the heart of the Traveller accommodation crisis and that with decisive action it could be resolved relatively quickly, what the Traveller Community is witnessing is that those who are responsible for delivering on Traveller accommodation are kicking the can down the road because it is an easier option than pushing through prejudice or standing up to bigots. This practice is not without consequence.
We need our government to lead by example – to take decisive action to ensure Traveller Accommodation Plans are implemented. It is not enough for the government to allocate a budget and task the Local Authorities to develop and deliver on TAP’s our government needs to become more pro-active on this issue until it is resolved.
The issues and challenges facing the Traveller Community: Traveller Accommodation.
- Many Travellers continue to live in extremely poor accommodation conditions and in an unsafe physical environment.
- There are often damp problems; pest infestation and lack of basic facilities such as sewerage, public transport, paved roads, pedestrian pavements, and electric lighting.
- Poor site design and drainage problems, as well as environmental hazards from land adjoining Traveller accommodation, are concerns for Traveller residents.
- Travellers are severely discriminated against when trying to access private rental accommodation and live under constant fear of eviction.
- As the building of Traveller Accommodation can be a contentious issue some local politicians have taken advantage of this for their political gain by stirring up opposition to block and stop Traveller Accommodation. Opinion to Traveller accommodation is one of the key reasons why the local authorities have not acted on their past accommodation plans.
- Local politicians who are Anti Traveller politicians often sit on Traveller accommodation groups this can make these both challenging and unprogressively spaces.
- Failure by County Managers to address anti Traveller bias or use executive powers to push through on Traveller accommodation plans.
- Lack of awareness by the local authorities of the level of multi-layered of racism and discrimination the Traveller Community experiences in their daily lives.
- The disconnect by local authority how the failure to deliver on Traveller accommodation impacts physical and mental health leading to chronic ill health and early death, depression, and Suicide.
- Budget and Under spend of the Traveller Accommodation budget –initially it was 40 million a realistic figure that has the potential to make a real impact, this was reduced in 2013 to 4 million due to austerity and has recently increased to 12 million, every year a significant portion of this money goes back to the exchequer unspent.
- Because of the high level of unemployment or unsecured employment, most Travellers do not have access to borrowing to purchase their own homes so remain reliant on local authorities.
- Lack of awareness or resources within the community of Residential Caravans /Mobile Homes most caravans the Irish Travellers community live in are “Summer Caravans “and are not suitable for year-round living with no insulation and inferior standard making them cold and damp in the winter and in bad weather. This a significant factor leading to ill health and chronic medical condition affecting so many of our Community and is also a leading factor in fuel poverty.